Bigger than ever before: challenges and change in hospice comms

Categories: Care, Featured, and People & Places.

Chris Higgins, Marketing and Communications Manager at Katharine House Hospice in Oxfordshire, writes about why you should attend Hospice UK’s Comms Conference on July 12.

We’ve all seen it; comms folks gluing themselves to smartphones like teenagers at the slightest break in proceedings. We’re feverishly assuring ourselves there were no typos in the latest email campaign, even though we proofed it eleven times. We’re checking in to make sure the office is still standing, with no imminent crisis to communicate or battered reputation to manage.

Are we bored out of our minds at these conferences? Or just desperate to avoid contact with other humans? Because we’re really not that important – the office will still be standing on Monday. Who’d have thought it; communicators doing everything in their power to avoid communicating?!

The Hospice UK Comms Conferences I’ve been to were nothing like that.

Maybe it’s because we’re all working towards the same philosophy; that everyone in our community facing a life-limiting illness should have access to the best care throughout.

We’re all chasing the same unicorns: awareness, engagement, action. Event sign-ups, donations, coverage. We’re trying to bust the usual myths about our dark, scary hospices where people ‘just come to die’, and raise awareness of huge funding challenges along the way. We’re all in it together, and that’s what makes this conference – and the hospice sector – different.

I was lucky enough to be a panel member at last year’s conference on branding, and I thoroughly enjoyed both that and catching up with the Hospice UK team and my peers from around the country. It’s brilliant to come together to work towards our common goal, and, frankly, to be reminded that we’re not alone in our little hospice bubbles. Often someone from a hospice far away will have the simplest answer to a challenge that’s been bugging you for months!

So what of this year’s conference?

Our profession and our sector face huge challenges. The need for communications professionals to demonstrate its importance and value as a strategic, C-level contributor has never been greater, and as comms pros we face endless challenges around everything from driving digital to crisis communications.

Recently in the hospice sector we’ve seen heart-breaking accounts of hospices closing or cutting services thanks to a funding model that is fundamentally broken. Couple this with a ceiling on the income we can generate through fundraising and retail, and real questions now exist about how we make hospice care sustainable in the future and the role comms plays in communicating that.

That’s why this conference is going to be so useful.

As comms people, we’re so busy, it’s a hundred miles an hour all the time. Every person in the organisation wants something (usually for us to make something ‘go viral’), not to mention all those audiences we’re supposed to be engaging and converting.

We’re forever torn between the highly strategic and the minutely operational; designing big picture things and trying to wedge our call to action into a tweetable 240 characters.

To have somewhere like the Hospice UK Comms Conference, where we can all get together and start to figure these things out, is invaluable.

The conference will take place at Birmingham Airport Holiday Inn. For more information, download a draft programme. To book tickets visit Hospice UK’s website